When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he taught them what we know as the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer has become a model for Christian prayer ever since. It can be prayed directly in faith, to cover all of the needs we have each day. Or it can be used as a model, a framework, from which an extended time of prayer can emerge.
The prayer begins with “Our father”, two words, but with profound meaning.
The first word “our” makes it clear that this is not individual prayer. Even though we may pray it individually, it is a corporate prayer. We live in a culture and society which places great value on the individual, “my rights,” “my choice” etc. We are continually challenged to be the best we can be as individuals. Immersed in this culture we have naturally applied an individualistic worldview mentality to our relationship with God. The church reinforces this when evangelists ask us: “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?”
It is right that they ask questions like this, each of us need to personally respond to the drawing and calling of the Holy Spirit, leading us into faith in Jesus. But while our decision to respond to the person of Jesus is personal we are born again into community, not as isolated individuals. Yes, faith is personal, but it’s not private. We are part of a community. We are members of the body of Christ, the Church.
This should be no surprise to us, as it is consistent with how God has chosen to work in the past. He has chosen to work with families, Adam and Eve, the family of Abraham, the children of Israel. God chose to work through a Covenant relationship with the Nation of Israel beginning with the Exodus from Egypt and continuing through to the present day.
When Jesus instructs us to pray “Our” Father, he is reminding us that we pray as part of a community, not as mere individuals. The prayer is not about us as individuals. It is not about getting what we want as individuals. It is not about God just meeting my needs. It is a prayer set in the context of community. It’s a reminder, that when we pray, even if it as an individual, that we are part of the larger community. We pray as the body of Christ and not as an isolated individual.
Why is this Important?
It’s important because God chooses to work through groups of people rather than individuals. Sometimes the leader is the only one who is seen, but there is always a group of people together. No one person has all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God has designed us to need each other. As we work together using the gifts, talents and resources the Lord has given to us, we see his kingdom expanded.
God chooses to work this way because God is a person who loves community. In fact, God is community. He is the triune God, three persons yet one. The trinity is this mysterious expression of community, which through the Holy Spirit, we are invited to participate in. God reflects his very nature in the prayer which Jesus taught his disciples to pray. So as we recite this prayer in faith, or use it as a framework for an extended time of prayer we begin with the reminder that it is a prayer of community.
Father God, thank you that you place us in community together and that you draw us into deeper community through the words of the Lord’s Prayer. Lord, when we struggle with that community aspect give us grace to be faithful and love to enable us to grow. As we pray remind us again and again that we do so not on our own, but that we join together with brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ to pray to our Heavenly Father, who has loved us so much that he sent Jesus to die in our place. Thank you for uniting us together in Jesus. In Jesus name, who unites us together as brothers and sisters, we pray. Amen.